An attack not only on separation of powers, but also basic norms of civility.
“I want to tell you, Gorsuch, I want to tell you, Kavanaugh, you have released the whirlwind, and you will pay the price. You won’t know what hit you if you go forward with these awful decisions.”
Those were the words of the Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, one of the most powerful elected officials in the nation, in March of 2020. After spending years cynically delegitimizing the high court, Schumer had moved to openly threatening life-time appointed judges, by name, because he feared they would knock down the concocted constitutional right to an abortion.
Initially, Schumer refused to walk back those remarks. His spokesman ludicrously claimed the statement was “a reference to the political price Republicans will pay for putting them on the court.” Of course, the senator hadn’t singled out the Republican Party, or any Republican. He called out the two newest justices by name. “You” and “you.”
Yet, it is almost surely the case that the coverage of a California man carrying a weapon and burglary equipment near Brett Kavanaugh’s home, reportedly there to murder the Supreme Court justice over the leaked opinion in Dobbs, will not be tied to the rhetoric of Democrats like Schumer. CNN political reporters will not walk from one Democratic senator to the next, asking them if their rhetoric is responsible for inciting a man to show up at the Supreme Court justice’s home with a tactical knife, a Glock, ammunition, pepper spray, and zip ties. We will not have a national conversation about the specter of leftist violence.
When in 2017, James Hodgkinson walked onto a baseball field in Alexandria, Va., and opened fire, with the intention of massacring Republican leadership, few outlets even mentioned that he was a big fan of socialist Bernie Sanders, a man who tells minions that the nation is on the precipice of fascism. No one in the media blamed Sanders for the actions of a madman. The standards of culpability for political violence differ from situation to situation.
When cosplay Nazis rioted in Charlottesville, Va., every Republican was asked to take ownership of a movement that had nothing to do with their beliefs. When leftist unrest across the nation causes billions in damage and destroys thousands of lives, one could barely get anyone in the media to admit it was even happening. When a goofy (largely FBI-hatched) kidnapping plot on Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer was stopped, it was a major story, framed as a microcosm of MAGA terrorism. Today there is a slew of attacks on pro-life centers across the country, and it barely gets any notice.
And normally I wouldn’t blame Democrats for the actions of extremists, either. The problem is that not only does the left continue to push the boundaries with Schumer-like threats, but they are engaged in the relentless, daily smearing of their political opponents as seditious, vote-stealing, child-murdering fascists and insurgents. If this were true, violence would be justified. But it’s a sinister lie.
Moreover, though most people abhor violence, there is a concerted effort to intimidate justices. When Peter Doocy asked White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki if activists posting maps to homes and doxxing Supreme Court justices was the “kind of thing this president wants?” she responded: “Look, I think the president’s view is that there’s a lot of passion, a lot of fear, a lot of sadness from many, many people across this country about what they saw in that leaked document.” Kavanaugh’s would-be murderer told the FBI he got the idea to kill the Supreme Court justice after finding his address posted on the internet.
And let’s not forget that the White House encouraged people to go to the justices’ homes to protest. This is an attack not only on separation of powers, but also basic norms of civility. The same people who are clamoring to limit free expression, can’t even ask their people to observe basic decency. Biden, not long ago, argued that harassing Kyrsten Sinema in the bathroom to pressure her to support Build Back Better was “part of the process.” The people who promised to bring back norms are engaged in abnormal behavior.
As of this writing, House Democrats have still refused to vote for the Supreme Court Police Parity Act, passed a month ago by the Senate, which would offer enhanced protection for all justices. It is not unreasonable to assume that those House Democrats want justices to feel intimidated. That was almost surely the goal behind the Dobbs leak and the reason Schumer stood on the steps of the Supreme Court and threatened two justices by name. Unless grownups take over, things are going to get out of hand.
David Harsanyi is a senior editor at The Federalist. Harsanyi is a nationally syndicated columnist and author of five books—the most recent, Eurotrash: Why America Must Reject the Failed Ideas of a Dying Continent. His work has appeared in National Review, the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Reason, New York Post, and numerous other publications. Follow him on Twitter, @davidharsanyi.